Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas In Taiwan (part 1)

It's Christmas Eve and I am sitting at a Starbucks in Hualien, a city on the east coast of Taiwan. Short holiday away from Hong Kong. My friends from work had been talking about doing this trip for a while. Taiwan is really close, only an hour flight away.

We got to Taiwan really late Saturday night/Sunday morning. I got a different flight from them that was leaving about 20 minutes earlier. But when we got to the airport, we found out that their flight was delayed. And we had the hardest time trying to find out where I was supposed to check in. I had bought the flight with HK airlines but it was in fact operated by EVA air. EVA air was running some sort if Hello Kitty thing and everything had Hello Kitty on it, including boarding passes, utensils, even fish cake on their in flight meal!!

I got to Taipei and was about to relax, find a good chair to wait for my friends when I realized their flight was not on the arrivals list. And the I read that the sign was showing flights for Terminal 2 only. This led me to conclude that their flight must be coming in in Terminal 1. A nice security guard showed me the way to the Sky Train after scaring me that the no shuttles would be running at that hour. I found my friends just as they got out of the gates and we successfully made our way to our hotel in Taoyuen. The taxi was a standard fare. It's really good to be in a country where you don't need to negotiate your taxi fare. The hotel was not bad but we only slept there for about 5 hrs before getting ourselves up and onwards to our next destination.

We had a very well planned and executed day. Took the train to Taipei, found lockers for my friends who wanted to leave some stuff in Taipei for the latter part of their trip. We were worried that we wouldn't be able to find anything opened because travel websites only advertised 3 day lockers. There were actually 6 day lockers available. We managed to get the right tickets to Hualien and even find a HSBC bank before boarding the train. We got to Hualien and got a ticket for a shuttle bus to the Taroko Gorge. We left some stuff at the bike shop that my friends were renting their bikes from, and promised the staff that we would be back by 6pm at the latest.

The gorge is really beautiful but the bus was slow and there were a lot of twists and turns. I wasn't feeling all that well by the end of the day. That was too many trains and buses for me. We didn't have time to explore very much of the place. I probably should have gone back again but I wanted to check out the town and some of the gorge looked too dangerous to be out there by myself. There were a lot of Chinese and Korean tour buses though. So as long as I didn't go off on my own I think it would have been ok.

We made it back to town with a few minutes to spare and picked up our stuff from the bike shop. We took a taxi to our hostel with no problems. The hostel owners are really nice and helped my friends call up their upcoming hostels. I think it really takes a very cheerful and optimistic person to run a hostel. The ones I've met so far are all really nice and friendly.

We walked around town a bit, found dinner, and even hit up a night market. I think we were all pretty tired by that day and went to sleep pretty early. I got up with my friends to get breakfast and saw the off on their bike trip. It was kind of hard to communicate with the bike shop owners but we got everything they needed in the end. I've walked around town a bit and taking a break at a Starbucks.

No comments: